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Who We Are

In 1947 Lucy Jackson, a self-taught cook decided to own her own restaurant. While working on developing a name for the business, she received some uncommon inspiration from a couple of sources. First, while on a trip to California, she saw a picture of a bee on a large moving sign, and viewing it as a sign, decided to name her restaurant after it.

Shortly thereafter, she was moved to help an African missionary by providing ahot meal for her. The missionary was previously in another well known restaurant, but couldn’t afford to buy anything to eat. She was told, “Go down to Busy Bee, Momma Lucy will feed you!”. The missionary was so refreshed and enjoyed the meal so much that she was moved to encourage the aspiring entrepreneur that because of her kindness, her business would always be busy, and that it would always be blessed. It was these two encounters that inspired the now-famous name “Busy Bee.” After enjoying more than two decades of lasting success, Lucy decided to retire by selling the business to two investors from the real estate and newspaper industries. Because the partners did not have the time and access to efficiently run their restaurant business, they in turn decided to sell the company to Tracy’s father in the early 80′s.

Originally started in 1947 by Lucy Jackson, the ever-popular Busy Bee Cafe is still serving up soul food and is owned by Tracy Gates.


When Tracy Gates started working at Busy Bee Cafe in 1987, her first challenge was to bring the restaurant back to its roots. Using fresh ingredients, she "kicked the can" out of the kitchen and refocused on authentic Southern Cooking from scratch, bringing passion, soul and a dedication to delivering the best possible customer experience.

Tracy and her team received customers from all over the world. She takes pride in serving food that provides comfort to people having a bad day, brings back fond memories of family recipes, and that reflects a menu that truly resonates with people. Ingredients are carefully selected from local markets or via longstanding partnerships with family farms in the region.

Busy Bee Cafe is the only business in the neighborhood that was started in segregation and still exists today, and Tracy is proud that it continues to be a meeting place in the community.

Fun Fact

Training as a cook at Busy Bee Cafe takes at least three years, learning not only how to consistently deliver the soul food recipes people expect, but also adapt ingredient selection and preparation based on seasonal changes (sweet potatoes have different sugar content through the year). That said, once cooks have mastered their craft, they tend to stay with Tracy until they retire.

What sets Busy Bee Cafe apart?  

Its history, longevity, and authenticity: Opened in 1947 by Lucy Jackson, a self-taught cook.  Its significance during the Civil Rights Movement: During a time when Jim Crow Laws adamantly enforced segregation, Atlanta was segregated, so there were few locations where African Americans could gather in large numbers.  Busy Bee Cafe was listed in the Famous "Green Book" Guide for Travel & Vacation - The Negro Travelers Guide.  During this time, black entrepreneurs invested in the area and created thriving business that grew and created promise for the community.  These safe places were listed in the Green Book during 1936-1966.  

Since 1947 we are now the few business from segregation that started and still stands on Hunter Street (now Martin Luther King Drive).

Its welcoming atmosphere and the sincerity and loyalty of its staff and its home-cooked, home-grown food continues on here in Atlanta Georgia.

“Continuing Miss Lucy’s tradition was important to me.”
—Tracy Gates